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Joni Mitchell Calls Bob Dylan A "Plagiarist"

If this was the Huffington Post, the above headline would read, "Joni Mitchell EVISCERATES Bob Dylan," but it's not, so here's the facts without any embellishments.


In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times and performance artist/actor John Kelly, who's portraying the singer his show Paved Paradise, Joni Mitchell had this to say about Bob Dylan after a comparison was drawn by the interviewer: "Bob is not authentic at all. He's a plagiarist, and his name and voice are fake. Everything about Bob is a deception. We are like night and day, he and I."


Wow. Those aren't particularly kind things to say about Bob Dylan, the only person who's ever been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature for lyrics, but notice that she never says she dislikes him or his music. You know, she just says that he's a plagiarist and that nothing about him is authentic. That's not so bad. [NME]

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Bob Dylan
Joni Mitchell

If you have seen Martin Scorsese documentary "No Direction Home" this isn't much of a surprise. It is frequently discussed that Dylan was like a chameleon and would take on traits and styles of what he experienced around him.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/paulgiunta/avatarjpg.jpg paulgiunta

"Joni Mitchell never lies" -Q-tIp

/site_media/uploads/images/users/longjohn/wing-of-a-roller-smalljpg.jpg longjohn

This is a rare glimpse of proto-Rockism. Or should we call it Folkism? Start with some vague notion of what is and is not authentic, assume that the former must be good and the latter bad, mix with a whole bucket full of sour grapes. Serve over ice.
Paul's comment above is right on, Dylan sort of insinuated himself into a folkie movement to which he had no particularly organic connection (though, neither did any of the other performers of the time). Of course, once Dylan got in, he up and exploded the entire folk movement from the inside-- the result of which influenced the future of American popular music in a thousand different ways. Meanwhile, Joni Mitchell released a bunch of Very Authentic records that, so far as I can tell, have mostly served to spawn generations of dull singer-songwriters who pretty much do Joni's schtick, just not as well.
As far as I'm concerned, Joni can keep her authenticity. I'll take Dylan's brilliantly calculated inauthenticity any day of the week.

Greg Ingber

Bob Dylan's voice grates my nerves.

Daniel Distell

Joni is so right. So many Dylan songs were stolen from other folk and blues artists, and not credited.

Robert E Piriczki

"So many Dylan songs were stolen from other folk and blues artists, and not credited."

Details, please, chapter and verse. Names, dates, the whole nine yards.


Floretta - it would take too long!


Consider the body of work Joni has contributed to American art and then consider Bob's.

Joni wrote a couple of decent songs 50 years ago...she should stop criticizing and start writing.


the internet is great. you can click on links and read sources for quote immediately. if you did that you would see that the discussion they are having is on identity and how the music of the time reacted to public expectations and people became personas, playing themselves. Joni's words may sound harsh but the assertion is undeniable.
oh, the same article also mentions that Joni's last album was in 2007 (and it's pretty solid). she's still writing. when is the last time you released an album? or tried to access accurate information?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/longjohn/wing-of-a-roller-smalljpg.jpg longjohn

The folk tradition was built on artists taking older tunes and making them their own. Mitchell seems to ignore this. To cite a commercial example, "Tom Dooley" and "Worried Man Blues," were hits for the Kingston Trio, but have traditional roots. Dylan's "With God on Our Side" uses the melody of the trad ballad "Patriot's Game."

When Dylan changed from folk to rock in 1965, his melodies became more his own, except when he was doing blues stuff. The real problem I have with Dylan is that when others used his songs to carry on tradition, he sued. At least this happened when Hootie and the Blowfish quoted his "Tangled Up in Blue" in their "I Only Wanna Be With You."

/site_media/uploads/images/users/tsclafan/moi image.jpg tonys

"Meanwhile, Joni Mitchell released a bunch of Very Authentic records that, so far as I can tell, have mostly served to spawn generations of dull singer-songwriters who pretty much do Joni's schtick, just not as well."

actually, for anyone paying attention, joni's sphere of influence on popular music has been vast. one listen to "hissing of the summer lawns" and you can hear it. you can hear traces of her in elvis costello, annie lennox, sting, pm dawn, janet jackson, tori amos, q-tip... just to name a few. prince (and wendy and lisa) hailed joni for years as a favorite. bjork has talked about her love of "don juan's reckless daughter" - (and neither "hissing" nor "don juan" are considered her best work) throw in kd lang, norah jones and sufjan stevens & whole gaggle of others... to suggest she's only inspired imitators is just misinformed.


out of the thousands of songs dylan has written I have read of about 5 or so instances where he has referenced certain lines from poets and old songwriters which seems like more of a tribute to me and maybe even an unconcious one considering how large his discography is. furthermore the folk scene dylan got his start in was a community in which everyone shared playing styles and songs with eachother. hard rains a gonna fall, one too many mornings, i shall be realeased, my back pages, like a rolling stone etc i could name hundreds of dylan songs without a hint of plagiarism.


Lonnie said that she wrote "decent songs" 50 years ago. There was nothing said of her recent albums.


This is insanity. Outside of the simple fact that pop/rock, an culture in general, is a game of appropriation called evolution... Dylan gave so much more to every artist around him, and in fact the entirety of pop culture, than he could ever have 'taken'. He was and is so beyond any other contemporary songwriter on so many levels that we have a hard time measuring his impact and genius. So we throw weird barbs that make no sense. Silliness.

Jonah Matranga

Do we really need to defend Bob Dylan? Or Joni Mitchell? Or cut down either one? What she's saying sounds pretty right on to me -- not good, not bad, just accurate -- and I don't think Mr. Zimmerman would argue with her. So where, again, is the uproar coming from?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/mfiander/profile.jpg mfiander

i agree with everything she said except the everything about bob is a deception part.that is a lie


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